- 30 years on, deaths in custody a national shame
- Cairns ACCHO gives students a strong start
- Health sector’s role in deaths in custody
- Raising criminal responsibility age urged
- Mega prison raises fears for prisoner health
- Increasing vaccine take-up in remote NT
- COVID-19 radio ads in language
- Health system needs to learn from patient experience
30 years on, deaths in custody a national shame
Today marks the 30th anniversary of the of the Report of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) and numerous stakeholder organisations have released statements condemning the continued failure of governments to implement all of the report’s recommendations.
The Partnership for Justice in Health (P4JH) said it stands in solidarity with the grieving families and communities of loved ones who have died in custody due to a failure of governments to effectively implement the clear and comprehensive recommendations outlined in the RCIADIC report. The P4JH said all levels of government must reflect on the loss and grief that could have been prevented had they acted on the recommendations as a matter of priority in 1991 and in the years since. “We are sending our strength to those families and friends whose grief and trauma is compounded by that continued failure of Australian governments to act with resolve and commitment,” said the P4JH co-chairs Dr Janine Mohamed, CEO of the Lowitja Institute and Karl Briscoe, CEO of the National Association of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Health Workers and Practitioners (NAATSIHWP). To view P4JH’s media release click here.
Indigenous Allied Health Australia (IAHA) released a statement acknowledging the deep loss and grief of families and friends whose loved ones have passed away while in custody, both before and since the RCIADIC report. IAHA said ‘we are at our best when we go beyond empathy and act to reduce the causes of that grief and loss. We must do that now.’ IAHA called for the full implementation of the RCIADIC report’s recommendations. To view the IAHA’s media release click here.The Australian Indigenous Doctors’ Association (AIDA) said that ‘Aboriginal deaths in custody continue to occur to this day – and the over-representation of our people in custody – is a national travesty. This is an abject failure of Australian governments. Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people suffer unacceptably high levels of physical illness, mental illness and suicide. There is ample evidence that grief, stress and trauma make us sick and incidents such as ongoing deaths and over-representation – further add to the burden of health and disadvantage. Racism and unconscious bias – institutional, systemic and individual – is an unacceptable fact of life for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people. Culturally safe services can support service providers to confront and understand cultural difference and deliver effective and safe services to our people.’ AIDA called on all governments to accept, and to address racism and unconscious biases that are embedded in police, prison, legal and health systems. To view AIDA’s media release click here.The National Native Title Council (NNTC) similarly said that three decades on from the RCIADIC report the rate of Indigenous incarceration and deaths in custody continues to be one of our country’s greatest shames. The NNTC referred to research from The Guardian that found Indigenous peoples who died in custody were “more likely to not have been charged with any crime” and were “three times more likely to not receive all required medical care, when compared to non-Indigenous people”. The Royal Commission made 339 recommendations, of which more than one hundred have not been implemented. To view the NNTC’s media release click here.
Change the Record says it is a national shame that in the three decades since the RCIADIC report, state, territory and Commonwealth governments have failed to implement the majority of the report’s recommendations – and as a result ‘our people are still dying at horrendous rates.’ To view the Change the Record’s media release click here.
Human Rights Watch agreed that the Australian government’s continued failure to address Indigenous deaths in custody tarnishes the country’s rights record and global standing. To view the Human Rights Watch article click here.
Oxfam Australia Chief Executive Lyn Morgain said: “Today is a historic and shameful day for our nation. Thirty years ago, the landmark report of the RCIADIC revealed the full extent of the danger that our justice system presents to First Peoples, and laid out the path we needed to take to make things right. Thirty years on, and things are much worse – with incarceration rates of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people more than doubling in relative terms. Our leaders have been missing in action on this issue. They have failed to implement many of the report’s 334 recommendations, and they have failed to show care and compassion for First Peoples by changing an unfair and unjust system.” To view Oxfam Australia’s media release click here.
Thirty years ago Robert Tickner AO, the Aboriginal Affairs Minister in the Hawke government, presented the RCIADIC report to the national Parliament. Now as the Chair of the Justice Reform Initiative he said “It is to our great shame that 30 years later, we have progressed so little. We cannot wait another 30 years for real change.” The report made 339 recommendations, including that imprisonment should only occur as a last resort. This recommendation was adopted by all Australian Governments including by every State and Territory Government from all political persuasions. This support was given on the back of incontestable evidence that jailing was failing Aboriginal people. To view the media release click here.
Cairns ACCHO gives students a strong start
Commencing on 22 April, six students in Year 11 from Bentley Park College and Trinity Bay State High School, will start a school-based traineeship at Wuchopperen Health Service (Wuchopperen) to kickstart their health career with 100% Indigenous owned and operated Group Training Organisation, Australian Training Works Group (ATW), leading the recruitment drive.
The Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Traineeship Program, ‘Strong Start’, will give Indigenous youth a head start, achieving a nationally recognised qualification and on the job training while completing year 11 and 12. “By allowing students to gain work skills while completing school, they’re able to work towards a goal, whether that be higher education or transition to work,” says Rachael Ham, Deputy CEO at Wuchopperen. To view the media release in full click here.
Health sector’s role in deaths in custody
As Australia marks the 30th anniversary of the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody (RCIADIC) the health sector has been urged to reflect on whether it is part of the problem or offering solutions. Associate Professor Megan Williams, Wiradjuri justice health researcher and educator, has identified multiple areas where the sector has failed to address the health needs of prisoners.
Professor Williams says ‘justice is essential for health, for all people in Australia. How we disregard the Royal Commission recommendations is as sick as how we treat First Peoples. $40 million, three years of testimony and evidence about 99 Aboriginal deaths in custody in the 1991 final report and 339 recommendations. But what about deaths since? More than 474. Barely a family have not been affected by Aboriginal deaths in custody, police brutality, poverty or racism. It’s time to make a list of all the government frameworks that overlook, minimise, forget, ignore, exclude, tokenistically mention or silence Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people in prison, and all people in prison.’
To view the full Croakey article click here.
Raising criminal responsibility age urged
National Children’s Commissioner, Anne Hollonds and Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Social Justice Commissioner, June Oscar AO have urged all Australian governments to raise the age of criminal responsibility as a matter of priority. A report commissioned by a meeting of Attorneys-General in July last year recommended that all jurisdictions raise the age and ensure younger teenagers are not held in detention. Recent reports have suggested that Australian Attorneys-General are considering raising the age from 10 to 12. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommends raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14-years-old as a minimum. As we mark 30 years since the Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody handed down its report, it’s important to acknowledge that Indigenous children account for 58% of young people being held on remand and 48% of young people in sentenced detention.
To view the Australian Human Rights Commission media release in full click here.
Mega prison raises fears for prisoner health
Governments often hail the economic benefits that new or expanded prisons bring to regional communities. But what are their health and social impacts? These issues are investigated as part of Croakey’s new Rural Health Justice series. In the feature article launching the series, journalist Linda Doherty explores how Australia’s newest mega jail, the Clarence Correctional Centre (CCC), near Grafton, NSW is affecting the health and wellbeing of prisoners, their families and the local community.
Around 60% of the 155 women prisoners in CCC have dependent children and one-third are Aboriginal women, according to SHINE for Kids which advocates for the human rights of children with a parent in prison, transports children to jail visits, runs evidence-based parenting, cultural and education courses in 27 jails in NSW, Queensland, Victoria, ACT and WA, and funds tutors for primary school children.
Like many of the 339 recommendations of the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody that have been ignored by governments, recommendation 168 resonates for the parents in the new CCC facility. It says: “…where possible, an Aboriginal prisoner should be placed in an institution as close as possible to the place of residence of his or her family.”
To view the full article in Croakey click here.
Increasing vaccine take-up in remote NT
In East Arnhem Land, the Miwatj Health Aboriginal Corporation said only 129 of about 5,600 eligible people had received the AstraZeneca vaccine since the rollout began in the region at the start of April. Chief executive Eddie Mulholland told the ABC he expected that number to be higher, but people were now becoming even more reluctant because people are hearing reports of rare blood clotting among recipients of the AstraZeneca vaccine.
The NT’s peak Aboriginal health service is working on a plan to improve the take-up of COVID-19 vaccines after reports of growing reluctance in remote areas. A spokeswoman for the Aboriginal Medical Services Alliance NT said details will be released early next week.
To view the article in full click here.
COVID-19 radio ads in language
The Australian Government Department of Health has produced a collection of translations of the radio ad, ‘Living the new normal’, in Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander languages. To access the collection click here.
Health system needs to learn from patient experience
The health system in Australia would benefit significantly by paying more attention to the lessons learned from patient experience, the Consumers Health Forum (CHF) says. This is a key message from the latest edition of the Health Voices ejournal which covers the recent Shifting Gears Australasian summit conference of the CHF.
“The value of learning from experience was given fresh power at the inaugural Australasian summit last month,” the CEO of CHF, Leanne Wells, said. “As the conference heard more than once, health consumers, particularly those with chronic conditions are more likely to have deeper knowledge of their overall care than any one health professional dealing with a single aspect of their care. There is much to learn, including from such community-centred programs as the National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation success in countering COVID-19.”
To view the Consumes Health Forum of Australia media release click here.